Self is a simple substance, and, as such, is immaterial. Force is substance and substance is force. It is endued with constructive intelligence, and, like gravitation or cohesion can permeate a material body, without, in any way, disturbing it. It is adaptative or elective, or, in other words, elects that kind of selves for its parents as are best suited to the purposes of its being. Man is the outcome of an influx of a self, a force, a dynamis with its path determined by the dynamics of the deeds of its prior existence. To think that vitality starts from protoplasm, is insanity. Chemically examined protoplasm is but', C, O, H, N and S. But no amount of C, O, H, N and S put together will constitute life. The idea that life 'has nothing prior to it, that the force which controls the co-ordination of man's economy perished with the death of his organism, is quite puerile. Life is expansion and not creation, and, as such, is linked to those unseen realities which constitute its prior and future selves. We see only the middle link in the chain of existence which we call life, but take no notice of the preceding or succeeding ones which are invisible (I). The grosser material body is linked to a finer, immaterial one, in as much as nothing can exist without being attached to its antecedent. So at each conception there is the influx of a new self, for the lifeless constituents of a human body can not create a man, no matter how many chemical or physiological actions may be postulated to run to their rescue.
Before entering into the discussion of Sushruta's theory of conception, we shall take a little more trouble to enunciate fully the Vedic theories on the subject. "The child is the fruit of the combination of sperm and ovum" (2) It lies with its head downward inside the uterus, a fact which facilitates its passage out of, and protects its form from the effects of any injury done to that viscus. (3) The eyes of the child are originated as the cephalic portion of the fetal body is first developed. The factors, which are essential to the development of the fetal body, from the time of fecundation to the appearance of the characteristic sense-organs, have been described in a verse of the Rig Veda (I). In the Vedic mythology each organic function is consecrated to the tutelage of a presiding deity, and a Vedic Aryan loves to call a thing oftener by the name of its divine custodian than by that of its own. Rightly translated, the verse would read as follows: - "May Vishnu (the presiding deity of ether and nerve force) expand thy uterus, may Tvashta (the presiding deity of heat and metabolism) bring about the full differentiation of the limbs and the sex of the foetus, may Prajapati (the presiding deity of the ovum) sprinkle thy uterus, and mayst thou conceive through the blessing of the lord of human destiny. May Sarasvati (goddess of intellect) and the Ashvins, the surgeons of the gods (the presiding deity of fission, etc.) help thee in taking the seed." Now, the development of the fetal body takes place after the pattern of its father's species, and this conformity to the pattern of its species represents an act of intellection. Hence, the aid of the goddess of intellect has been invoked with that of the celestial surgeons, who preside over the process of cell-division, so essential to the formation of the fetal limbs. Divested of its allegory, the verse would mean that the sperm led into a healthy and well-developed uterus through the agency of the Vayu (increased activity of the local nerves) meets the maternal element (ovum) in that viscus. Then the impregnated matter undergoes a process of fission, and takes shape after the pattern of its father's species. When we think of so many idle speculations as regards the process of fertilisation, which obtained credence so late as the beginning of the 18th century in Europe, and the controversies that arose between the Ovists, Performists and Animalculists (I), we cannot help regretting that the Ayurvedic Embryology, which started under such happy auspices, could not fully solve the problem of fertilisation even before the advent of the Tantrik age. The fundamental principles with which the Embryology of the Accharyayas (Sushruta, Dhanvantari, etc.) was started are substantially the same as have now been discovered by the researches of the Western workers. Sushruta in his dissertation on the subject showed the illegitimacy which lay at the root of his predecessor's theory (Sharirasthanam Chap. II. ) and took up research exactly where the Vedic Rishis had left off. He clearly demonstrated the fact that "by a physiological process known as Rasapaka (metabolism) the lymph chyle is metamorphosed into sperm in men, or into ovum in women, in the course of a month. The catamenial fluid is carried down into the uterus through its proper ducts. The sperm or ovum is thus the quintessence of a man's or a woman's body. The sperm meets the ovum (Artavam) in the uterus, which resembles a lotus-bud in shape, and whose aperture is shut up with a mucous deposit as soon as fecundation takes place. The most favourable time for fecundation is between the fourth and twelfth day after the appearance of the flow (Garbhakala)" as has been lately demonstrated by the researches of Prof. Von Ott. (I).
Bhagavat Gita II. 28.
Astanga Hridayam (Vagbhat) Sharira Sthanam. Ch. I. 1.
Aiteriya Brahmana VI. 19, ed.
Rik Samhita X. M. 184. S.
(1) For a short history of the Theories of Fertilisation, Vide Evolution of Sex (Prof. P. Geddes and J. A. Thompson) Chap. XII. pp. 169 - 171.